911 Call if you can, text if you can't
911 Call if you can, text if you can’t

As of today, texting a 911 operator is now a possibility, statewide in North Dakota. This is a major service improvement for people with hearing or speech disabilities, enabling them to text for help in an emergency. Contacting dispatch operators by texting may also aid those in situations, such as domestic violence, where calling 911 may be dangerous.

It was noted in an article in the Fargo Forum today that texting 911 service is not yet available in all areas in Minnesota, so for those living in a border ND town, there may be instances when their calls connect with MN cell towers and do not go through.  If this happens, the FCC dictates that the wireless carrier MUST send a bounce-back text, indicating that the 911 text did not got through.  In 2014, the Federal Communications Commission adopted “rules requiring text messaging providers to enable Americans to text 911 in an emergency.”  This includes all wireless carriers and “certain IP-based text application providers”.

It has taken a couple years, but many states’ dispatch centers are now coming on board, with North Dakota this week and Minnesota with a projected statewide launch in 2017.  Montana and South Dakota appear to have Text 911 capabilities in some counties.

According to the officials, Conusmers should call if they can and text when they can’t.  When texting 911 a user should indicate

  • The nature of the emergency;
  • Whether to send fire, police, or ambulance;
  • The address; and
  • Never use Emoticons, slang or abbreviations.

About Author

Jeannie Krull is the Program Director for ND Assistive (formerly IPAT). She is an ASHA certified speech/language pathologist and a RESNA certified Assistive Technology Professional, who has worked with people with disabilities of all ages since 1991.